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Saturday, Jan 28, 2023

A new club with an appreciation for Israeli culture comes to campus

Officers of the new Students Supporting Israel, Chloe Phillips, Shanna Mattson, Maria Ilyayeva and Jenna Bruck (from left to right) stand with a banner of the club’s logo.
Officers of the new Students Supporting Israel, Chloe Phillips, Shanna Mattson, Maria Ilyayeva and Jenna Bruck (from left to right) stand with a banner of the club’s logo.

Mercer has a new student organization this semester called Students Supporting Israel. The club was started by Mercer junior Shanna Mattson, who also serves as the club president.

“The purpose of it is to just have a space for students. It was started by students for students,” Mattson said. “And it’s just to have a space for students who love Israel to celebrate the culture of Israel and educate campuses about the culture of Israel and kind of celebrate with each other and share that celebration with everyone.”

Mattson said the club was created by her and several of her friends of Israeli ethnicity and other similar ties to create a community centered around Israeli culture.

“When I came [to Mercer] there was not a lot of people that I noticed who had ethnic ties to Israel. So I wanted there to be a place to celebrate that part of my culture, but there wasn’t really a lot of interest.” Mattson said.

She said her past two years at Mercer have seen a growth in students with ethnic ties to Israel and interest in this kind of club.

“There’s people who want this, so I thought it would be a great time to make it happen.”

While the club mostly consists of people with ethnic or other similar ties to Israel, Mattson said there was interest from other people who are outside of these ties. They hope to bring in more people for a diverse group.

Both Mattson and Jenna Bruck, the vice president of the student organization, said they hope to share Israeli culture with Mercer’s campus for anyone interested in the experience.

“I really hope that this club promotes a lot of the really cool cultural aspects of Israel. It is a very multicultural place,” Bruck said. “I think that creating a club will really help promote ideas of tolerance and (acceptance), even if views are different.”

The Student Government Association unanimously voted in favor of the club’s creation after a few supportive comments and questions from the Student Government members.

This is the first semester for the club, which is a chapter of a national organization of the same name. The organization has chapters in several colleges and even a few high schools around the country.

The club is so new that the Mercer chapter is not even listed on the organization’s website yet, but Mattson has said that all of that should change soon now that they are officially ratified by the Student Government Association.

“Our mission is to be a clear and confident Pro-Israel voice on college campuses, and to support students in grassroots Pro-Israel advocacy,” reads the mission statement on the organization’s website.

There have been Israel support groups on other campuses that have been seen by some as politically motivated organizations. Several statements on the national organization’s website from officers of chapters on other campuses refer to the political state and government of Israel.

However, Mattson said her chapter has no political interest or motivation. She said that while political discussion can arise when talking about Israel, this club is all about the culture and creating a community.

“Really our goal here is to just shed a positive light on Israel and really a message of hope in that area,” Mattson said. “It’s not a political ambition. It’s really a cultural club celebrating the culture of Israel.”

The club has only had one meeting at this point between the officers, and they said it was used to discuss what kinds of things they wanted to do with the club.

An interest meeting will be held at the beginning of March to find people who are interested in being a part of the club.

After this meeting, Mattson said they want to hold various events based on Jewish and Israeli holidays and celebrations.

“I really think it is cool to celebrate the Jewish holidays, which is big in Israel because there’s a lot of Jews who live there,” Bruck said.

Bruck and Mattson also said events based on the Israel national holidays and Israeli food may be held by the club.

Mattson said there is no official list of members at the time, but that there is a GroupMe chat for the club with nine people currently.

“The majority (of club members) right now have ethnic ties to Israel, but I expect that as the club grows and we start to actually advertise that percentage will probably shift,” Mattson said. “I think there’s a lot of people on campus who are not tied to Israel ethnically who love Israel, so I’m excited to see all types of people come and join us.”


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